Protecting Card Holders’ Identity at the Register

protecting customers identity at the register
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Today, there seems to be as many means of confirming a person’s identity as there are fraudsters trying to outsmart them. We have two-factor authentication, fingerprints and face recognition to unlock phones, elaborate passwords and even back-up security questions. That’s because it’s never been easier for someone to pretend to be you, making otherwise simple purchases at checkout a cause for suspicion. So, when a customer tries to purchase several high-price items at once, it’s fair for trained cashiers to ask that a signature on a card matches the driver’s license. However, cardholders want to protect their own identity too, and should know their rights when asked for a photo ID.

The Big 4 Card Companies Fighting Identity Theft

You might assume that either state laws or business owners are the determining body for when cashiers can ask for identification. It’s surprisingly neither. That power lies with the card company associated with the card. Here are the “big 4” card companies and their corresponding rules for protecting cardholders at the register:

Visa’s Requirements for Checking ID

Visa is one of the most common card types. Merchants will likely run into identity concerns most frequently with this kind of card. Visa allows cashiers to request a photo ID with a purchase, but they prohibit requiring a photo ID with that purchase if the card is valid. An unsigned credit card is considered invalid, and a cashier should immediately request that the customer sign the card. By comparing the signature on the ID and credit card, the register attendant can then determine if the attempted purchase is fraudulent.

Some customers may refuse to sign the credit card. Although suspicious, it should be noted that the cashier can, and is required to accept a different signed Visa if the customer has one. Per the guidelines above, if that credit card is signed the customer is not required to show a photo ID to prove identity. Visa suggests not making a habit out of asking customers for ID’s unless the cashier attendant is suspicious. 

Mastercard’s Requirements for Checking ID

Like Visa, Mastercard allows cashiers to request an ID with any transaction. Similarly, they do not require that a cardholder gives over their identification unless it is needed to process the transaction. For example, an order in-store which will be shipped to the customer’s home address would justify a request for a photo ID with printed address. Some merchants may request the cardholder’s zip code if they are located in a region that supports Address Verification Service (AVS). 

Mastercard Requirements for Checking ID

Discover’s Requirements for Checking ID

Discover offers the option of requesting to see a card presenter’s photo ID whenever a card or customer seems suspicious. It isn’t explicitly stated if the cashier can require to see additional identification solely on a hunch of fraud. However, Discover is specific in mentioning that when an unsigned credit card is presented, cashiers should require to see driver’s license as well. In fact, a register attendant must require two forms of identification when presented an unsigned card. One of those must be an unexpired and government issued photo ID.

American Express Requirements for Checking ID

AmEx cards that do not have a signature on the back panel are also considered invalid. A cashier must ask the customer to sign in right away, in full sight. This signature and one on a photo ID should be compared to determine if they match. If they do not match, AmEx gives merchants two options. They can either refuse the card and the purchaser altogether, or they can contact American Express with “a Code 10”. A Code 10 is just a phrase used across several card brands to indicate a possible suspicious transaction. AmEx cards can also be completely declined if “it appears that someone other than the Cardmember is attempting to use the Card” or “the Card is obviously altered or counterfeit”. 

American Express requirements for checking ID

Protecting Customers’ Identity is a Top Priority

If we take away anything from these regulations, it should be that the card brands take both cardholder and merchant privacy very seriously. They understand how easy it is to steal an identity or make a purchase in another person’s name. More often than not consumers aren’t aware of the regulations surrounding one of the trickiest parts of their lives: spending money. PayFrog is an A+ BBB accredited business and the only ETA Certified Payment Professional in our area. Let us tell you more about us, and most importantly, more about the world of payment processing.


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